Nicolas Cage .... Yuri Orlov
Bridget Moynahan .... Ava Fontaine Orlov
Jared Leto .... Vitaly Orlov
Ian Holm .... Simeon Weisz
Ethan Hawke .... Jack Valentine
Sammi Rotibi .... Andre Baptiste Jr.
Eamonn Walker .... Andre Baptiste Sr.
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, Lord of War presents itself as a pretty forumlaic film. Think Scarface, only instead of Tony Montana getting rich off cocaine, it's Yuri Orlov (Cage) getting rich off of arms dealing. Like Tony Montana, the lead character in the film is someone that we should despise, and though I hate to use the word, he's pretty much an anti-hero. However, unlike Tony Montana, Yuri Orlov is actually pretty damn smart and slick.
The movie starts with a little backstory narration from Yuri, describing his upbringing, his previously monotonous life, and the inspiration behind his decision to become an arms dealer. We meet his younger brother Vitaly (Leto), we see Yuri pining for the hometown girl of his dreams, Ava Fontaine (Moynahan), and we see his first sale. If you hate movies that are constantly being narrated, with the resulting action being shown to us while the internal monologue goes on and on, you're not going to enjoy this movie. Personally, I find the constant narration form of filmmaking to be lazy and unimaginative, but that's just me. I just feel that if you can't impart to the audience what's going on without the first half of your movie relying on flashback narration, you've made a mistake as a flimmaker. Most of Cage's work on the movie seems to be just voiceovers, although he does manage to slip in a trademark Cage Freak Out into one of his scenes.
It's hard to judge Cage's acting in the movie because of the constant narration. Hell it's hard to judge everyone's acting, as they're just reflecting the storytelling of Yuri, not acting of their own accord. Other than Bridget Moynahan's performance, everyone else in the movie performs well, delivering their part in the formula. Moynahan shows that she's not just a pretty face, she actually has some acting talent, proving that she can be likable even when she's not a John Cusack girlfriend. Leto also delivers a better than average performance, as the strung out, perpetually high brother of Yuri.
It's a conflicted movie, one that doesn't even seem sure of its own intentions, of what it's trying to get across to the audience. On one hand we have this man, Yuri, selling arms to anyone and everyone, with no thought to anything but his own take, not caring what the weapons will be used for. The movie makes it clear that in some ways, Yuri despises himself for his decisions, but in the end, it's all about the sale. On the other hand, you have this crack FBI Agent, Jack Valentine (Hawke), playing by the rules in an attempt to bring down Yuri and his arms dealing ways. You find yourself not rooting for Valentine to bring down Yuri and his little capitalistic dream, but hoping that Yuri gets away with it. Then, when Yuri is finally caught (come on, it's a formula movie, you knew it was going to happen) and is being interrogated by Valentine, Yuri gets ... well, let's just say that what Yuri says is pretty much the reason why no US studios would back the film financially.
I'm kind of torn about how to feel about this film. It's nothing I haven't seen before, and done better I might add. I liked director Niccol's previous film S1m0ne, but that was highly imaginative and original. The acting is alright in Lord of War, but there isn't enough of the actual performances there. It's a gorgeous looking movie, with varied locations throughout the globe. I just think the overall feel of the movie is of a black comedy, that this movie was financed by arms dealers as a slap in the face to the governments of the world. The film doesn't seem to know what agenda to buy into, and that's a confusing thing for anyone that watches it.
3 / 5